Letters to the Editor

Precision needed

August 26, 2011


To the editor:

Thank you for your thorough coverage of the new DUI laws, including “What a DUI stop, arrest looks like.” Unfortunately, as a criminal defense attorney, I noticed the simulated DUI stop had some flaws. First, the “follow the pen” test, known as the Horizontal Gase Nystagmus Test, has not been used in Kansas courts as evidence of impairment for almost 20 years (see State v. Witte, 1992).

Your reporter noted that his eyes were uncomfortable because he was staring into the sun. Many people’s eyes tear when staring at the sun, causing a temporary loss of vision and making it impossible for some people to pass any balance test. Therefore, the results of the walk-and-turn test would be suspect in a real case.

The tests described in the article, as well as several other tests law enforcement uses, are called field sobriety tests. They must be performed with scientific precision and without extraneous factors to get accurate results. Too often in my practice I see these tests given incorrectly, or, in the case of the “follow the pen” test, given even though they are not admissible in court as scientific proof of impairment.

The deputy has 17 years of experience and has stopped thousands of possibly drunk drivers. His testing methods were similar to what I see on Sheriff’s Office, Lawrence Police Department and Kansas State Police videos. Unfortunately, in the case of all of these agencies, their scientific methods are at times sloppy or outdated. I hope that the training of new officers and the refresher training of current officers will eliminate tests that are no longer accepted in the courts and that the officers will be taught the common factors, such a sun/lights in the eyes, and weather and road conditions, which should invalidate their tests in the courts.


akt2 6 years, 6 months ago

It's interesting that a drunk can sit behind the wheel and drive, although not well enough to not draw attention to themselves. But remove them from the vehicle and watch them try to walk and talk. Then take their blood.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 6 months ago

Sorry for the confusion. Here's how I interpreted it...

Distracted definition: changing radio station, beating kids, talking on cell phone, texting.

Impaired definition: doped up on pain pills, drunk.

cowboy 6 years, 6 months ago

Its rather obvious from the bulk of forum contents that lawrence in general is not real concerned about drunken drivers. While the defense attorneys can second guess the officers and many can look the other way drunk drivers kill and do so on a regular basis.

Set up checkpoints coming out of downtown on a saturday night and I would bet that you'd have hundreds of arrests.

cowboy 6 years, 6 months ago

Having lost a father in law and both of his parents in one fell swoop on a christmas eve to a drunk driver , it is a sin / crime / severely irresponsible and reckless behavior that is more than just an monetary inconvenience to the arrested party.

parrothead8 6 years, 6 months ago

I can't believe you're trying to make an argument by comparing being a woman driver to being a drunk driver. Not even close. Epic fail. Don't even bother trying again on that one.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

There's a difference between an "accident" and "negligence" or "reckless endangerment".

Driving drunk is an activity with fits much more in the third category, given what we know about the effects of drinking on driving skills.

And driving and texting would also fit there for me.

funkdog1 6 years, 6 months ago

So Gandalf, you've NEVER been in a fender-bender with a man? Never? Because some 20-year old punk driving a 4-wheel drive truck with big @ss tires once slammed into me because he was under the impression that such a vehicle could drive on ice at full speeds with no adverse effects.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Bottom-line is that our transportation system of private trucks and autos is extremely dangerous and deadly.

But we seem tp be willing to overlook the carnage of our streets and highways to gain the broad flexibly multi-lane highways deliver.

akt2 6 years, 6 months ago

Then after the alcohol blood test tells the real story and negates any question about whether a field sobriety test was properly conducted, hit them in the pocketbook.

begin60 6 years, 6 months ago

This was an informative letter. I notice so many issues that grow from lack of complete information and/ or outdated knowledge in Lawrence.

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